Bent Outta Shape – Stray Dog Town (CD)

Bent Outta Shape really play with listeners hearts during the first track of their “Stray Dog Town”. At ties sounding like the band will flitter to a close before they’ve really even gotten stronger, the subdued intensity of “Disappointment Rock” really looks back to Paul Westerberg and Rumbleseat. The melodramatic vocals put on the disc are a constant in a time of differing arrangements and staggered arrangements (Greyhound Bus). The fact that a track like “Greyhound Bus” goes through a number of shape turns really endears the band to listeners; their moves in the space of ninety seconds shows a maturity that is difficult to surpass.What seems to be a major thing holding the disc back from its rightful place in the sun has to be the quick production on the album.

There seems to be a systemic anemia captured on this disc; when a track like “Tell Me Why” seems to lack something, there is absolutely nothing wrong on the band side of things. In fact, the music on “Stray Dog Town” is easily the equivalent of Joe Strummer and Rancid’s best days, but the band’s struggle with the production really is problematic. Even in its reduced state, each track on “Stray Dog Town”” is a masterpiece, a song that is destined for greater radio play. “I Don’t Know” uses a Lars Fredericksen and the Bastards type of vocal inflection with the nuanced arrangement of Jawbreaker or “Hootennanny-era” Replacements. The longer runtime of a track like “I Don’t Know” seems to really work in Bent Outta Shape’s favor, as it really allows them to repeat themselves enough to really insert themselves into listeners’ minds, while appeasing music aficionados with a skilled ear to the arrangements. The bouncy opening to “Lapdog” is cut down by a more leisurely flow during the track’s stanzas; much like the related tracks on the disc, the track has enough harmony to cause John Lithgow to step down from eir pulpit and start dancing.

Where it may have been bands like Rumbleseat, Against Me! And Operation: Cliff Clavin to really renovate the genre for the next generation, it took Bent Outta Shape to really come out with something that is a milestone album. There is not a hint of weakness during the disc’s 11 tracks: the sing-along style dominant during the album links together some different tracks with a cohesion that all the best albums of the last fifty years – The Clash’s London Calling, for example – had.

Top Tracks: Solitary Now, Greyhound Bus

Rating: 8.8/10

[JMcQ]

Bent Outta Shape – Stray Dog Town / 2005 Recess / 11 Tracks / http://www.recessrecords.com / Reviewed 07 October 2005

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